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Oh, The Irony!
Quality Hotel (Newcastle)
Member Name: plipplop
Quality Hotel (Newcastle)
Advantages: A roof over your head...
Disadvantages: ....that probably leaks
Location and Getting There
The hotel is situated right in the bustling centre of Newcastle. I have to say that the location is superb for anyone visiting the centre for shopping or socialising, because you really are slap bang in the middle of everything. The Gate (a complex of bars and restaurants) is literally about four doors up from the hotel and all the big shops and shopping centres can be reached in less than ten minutes by foot. From the train station, the hotel is probably about ten minutes’ walk – not bad if you’ve travelled lightly, but otherwise a taxi might still be a good idea. This isn’t a hotel that I would recommend if you were driving. Whilst the A1 and ring road are fairly easy to navigate, it is the last stretch that generally causes the problem as you end up on one of the main thoroughfares through the city’s shopping centre. If the traffic is bad, you could end up sat there for twenty minutes every time you go in and out – other hotels (including Jury’s, for example) are much better.
The main problem with the location is that the hotel is actually very difficult to find. I looked for directions on www.yell.co.uk and concluded that the place would be very easy to find. This really wasn’t the case. The only clue to the hotel’s presence is a rather faded sign in one of the two glass doors that lead straight off the street into the hotel. I walked past it once. I asked for directions and I walked past it again. I literally had to be directed step by step until I could find it. The entrance is completely innocuous and looks more like an office than a hotel. This was all rather frustrating after having travelled and lumped several heavy bags up the street.
I’m not aware of a lift that goes right down to street level either, which means that disabled guests would probably struggle here.
Suggestion for Improvement
Better signage – possibly a sandwich board on the street – to direct people into the place. The hotel would be unlikely to benefit from much passing trade as things currently stand.
Reception and Greeting
Once you have actually found the main entrance, you have to climb a couple of flights of stairs and then navigate your way through a labyrinth of double doors and rooms until you actually reach the reception area. The first thing that will probably jump out to you as you wander along is the very tired décor. The carpets are worn and scruffy. The wallpaper is peeling and old-fashioned and the whole place generally smells a bit musty and it really doesn’t feel very welcoming. The walk to the reception desk is additionally unwelcome and you do wonder whether you are lost.
The hotel has its own car park, which comes into the hotel just round the corner from the reception desk, but isn’t signposted. The reception desk is small and characteristically tatty. The staff members are polite and courteous enough but they all look like they could do with a good wash. The checking in was all fairly efficient but the hotel has a very old-fashioned computer system so if there is a problem, you could be waiting for some time. Room keys are of the old-fashioned variety, so you get a nice chunky fob with a proper key on it rather than a swipe card.
Suggestions for Improvement
This will apply throughout the hotel but the place needs to be closed down for a complete refit. The general décor is old and tired and you just get a “cheap and nasty” feeling wherever you go.
If budgets wouldn’t permit this, then the hotel should at least invest on making the entrance more inviting. Better signage directing guests where to go, possibly with some posters or something to brighten the place up a bit. Additionally, at night, the main entrance is locked, so you have to buzz to be let in – it doesn’t say this anywhere, so a little sign might be a useful idea too.
Bedrooms and Bathrooms
The rooms are arranged across five floors – the building rises above the street like a hideous 1960s concrete tower block. There are both executive and standard rooms available, but don’t expect much from either.
Shabby may be chic, but genuine shabbiness is shite – and these rooms are genuinely shite. The décor is really old and worn. The carpets are so dirty and marked that I felt uncomfortable walking bare foot. Basic facilities (trouser press, kettle etc) are provided but even the kettle was a bit mucky and I really didn’t fancy trying any of it. The beds are surprisingly comfortable but too short for us tall people and they’re burdened with horrible old –fashioned bedding that seems to be haunted by decades of dirty weekends. The television offers a movie channel and a couple of satellite stations but the sets are really small and the picture quality isn’t fantastic.
The bathrooms aren’t any better. They’re worse, in fact. The décor is still tired but there are the additional luxuries of lime scale on most of the fixtures and fittings, along with mould on the shower curtains and the grouting. The showers are horrible. They feel as though they are going to come away from the wall, and shoot out narrow little streams of water that have been so highly pressurised that the jets genuinely hurt. I had to resort to baths. The sensation of the water from the shower actually made my skin sting. Complementary, hideous toiletries are provided that look as though they have come out of a Christmas cracker. Why bother?
Suggestions for Improvement
A complete refit is once again essential – there is just no excuse for a hotel that is part of such a large chain to have such shabby rooms. I’d like to see the carpets replaced with hard floors (much more hygienic) and proper power showers fitted as standard.
The rooms need air-conditioning. Even during April and May, the rooms are uncomfortably warm and the windows only open a fraction.
Bad freebies are worse than no freebies at all. If you can’t be bothered to supply branded toiletries then just don’t bother – tacky and vulgar.
Eat me, drink me, spare me
The “rooftop” restaurant sits on the sixth floor and continues the theme of shabby shoddiness. The bar is horrific – it reminds me of a working man’s club and carries a small range of over-priced beers and spirits. The enclosed area has no air-conditioning and a desire to be smoked like a kipper by the hordes of old soaks sat at the tables is compulsory.
The restaurant isn’t much better. The large glass windows mean that the sun beats in at a horrendous temperature, such that the room is adorned with several cheap stand-up fans. The décor is rather like a cheap wedding reception, with very tired upholstery and back areas that would give Gordon Ramsey nightmares. The waiters and waitresses are fairly polite and efficient (if not slightly jumpy) but the place has a real feeling of unhappiness about it – not a pleasant dining atmosphere at all.
Surprisingly, the quality of the food is quite good. There is a set menu, an “a la carte” menu and a list of daily specials, which, when combined, offer quite a good choice of different world dishes. The last time I ate here I opted for an asparagus and Parma ham starter, followed by a broccoli and cheese parcel with fresh vegetables and simple apple pie for afters. With two beers, the whole lot came to about £17.90, which is fairly good for hotel prices and the meal was really quite nice. It was all fresh, well-presented and tasty – a bit of a surprise if I’m honest. Breakfast was of similar quality (quite expensive for £10.75) with a good selection of hot and cold items.
The restaurant experience is generally really poor though. The last time I visited, there were three buckets on the floor, accumulating dirty yellow water that was gradually dripping from the ceiling. I wasn’t allowed to sit where I wanted (the cool side of the restaurant had been set for breakfast at 19:00 the following evening) and the service was rather slow. The staff all looked harrassed and unhappy too – I felt like I was a nuisance when I asked for another drink.
Suggestions for Improvement
The quality of the hotel food is such that I think the dining area could become very popular. As well as the ubiquitous refit, the place needs an identity – a theme or something and needs to try and be more welcoming.
The place is also very strict about opening times. Food can be ordered from room service, but at 18:25 hungry guests were clearly waiting to be allowed to eat in the restaurant – let them eat when they want!
Value for Money
After that description, you might expect the Quality Hotel to be a budget chain – at least it would then be cheap. Sadly, this is not the case. For the privilege of staying in what appeared to be a run-down office complex with beds in it, I was charged £80 bed and breakfast (standard rate is £99). This is disgraceful – the hotel simply cannot justify charging anything more than £40 a night at most. When you have brand new hotels charging £65 for modern, spacious, comfortable rooms, The Quality Hotel seems even less desirable. To be fair, the food prices were not as high as I expected but the bar prices seemed quite high - £3.00 for a bottle of Budweiser is in line with nightclub prices these days.
You CAN save money by booking online, joining their discount schemes or using a travel agent. The hotel claims savings of up to 75% for advanced online bookings, so this might be worth considering.
Suggestion for Improvement
Until the management can sort out the interior décor, the Quality Hotel needs to greatly reduce its tariff. £80-£100 is fairly expensive for business travel and isn’t justified. The Malmaison (new and luxurious) is only £120 bed and breakfast. Similarly, if you’re going to serve drinks in a working man’s club, at least have the decency to charge working man’s prices.
Is there anything else?
The hotel uses manual receipts to charge items to your room. This takes ages. I asked for my bill in the restaurant, watched someone sit and write it out and then ten minutes later actually got a copy myself. Similarly, when I once checked out, I had to have a hand-written receipt as the basic computer system wasn’t running. A little injection of technology seems like a good idea to me.
Who would stay here?
Cheapskates! Apart from that, desperate business travellers or families looking for a cheap base might find the place suitable. If you wanted anything remotely romantic or stylish, then avoid like the plague.
Avoid this place. Whilst the food shows promise and the location is irrefutably handy for the centre, the place really is an over-priced hovel. I usually find myself feeling genuinely sorry for the staff who had to work in such a depressing place. The name of the place is a constant joke amongst guests too. This really is my last resort – after a bench in the park, the toilets in Revolution and the waiting room on platform 4 in Central station.
Summary: Cheap and nasty - but it could be so good!
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